Monday, March 26, 2012
Dallas ISD District 1 candidate Jennifer Levy hopes to shape up district
Levy is aware that she is up against stiff competition.
Jennifer Levy, candidate for District 1's DISD school board seat, had her first experience with public school when she enrolled her special needs preschooler, Lucy, at Preston Hollow Elementary.
“The journey with Lucy really made me more aware of education in general,” she said. “Once she started school in DISD, I just realized there was a lot of room for improvement.”
Levy said DISD is doing a lot of things right, which is why she chose to place her child in a DISD school, but that the needs to correction are mounting. Referencing common statistics that plague DISD — like only 10 percent of graduates being ready for college, or the fact that a fourth of DISD students won’t graduate at all — Levy said the negative image DISD has gained in the community make it difficult for the district to attract new students.
“I really feel like they need someone to come into the Board that is an effective communicator that is willing to take the time and put in the effort as an ambassador to the community so we can rebrand the DISD,” she said.
Levy, a trained nurse who worked in the organ transplant field, said her past role teaching and administrating in the medical field has prepared her as a goal-driven communicator who can handle complex tasks. Something she says will come in handy in District 1.
“Many students in District 1 go to private schools. The mix of students in public and private schools has resulted in a community that just isn’t as engaged as it could be,” she said. “It’s going to be the job of whoever is elected to forge pathways in the community, and help people understand that it doesn’t matter whether your child is in public or private schools — education is important.”
She said a united community front would help DISD better tackle the mounting issues facing the district, like, for instance, balancing the ever-shrinking budget that has been plaguing DISD in recent years.
Levy said the budget needs to be dealt with creatively, and always by cutting things that “don’t directly benefit the children first.” Using such examples as a boys’ field trip to see a movie, Levy said the district has a track record of spending large amounts of money to do things that don’t necessarily advance education, while taking money away from magnet schools, which have a proven track record of being the best schools in the district.
And while she says she knows the district well and is prepared to lead, Levy is aware that she is up against stiff competition.
Levy was recently passed up for a crucial endorsement by the Dallas Regional Chamber’s PAC, Educate Dallas. The endorsement — and $10,000 — went to opponent Elizabeth Jones, who is a veteran of Dallas politics and is currently the favorite to win the seat. Alliance-AFT recently endorsed her other opponent, DISD father Michael Greenberg.
“I have a big challenge ahead of me. They are all good candidates, and this would be a challenging race for anyone,” she said. “I don’t think any of us is better than the other. We are all different candidates and the voters are going to have to decide what they want.”
Levy, who is currently a stay-at-home mom, realizes also that there is a stereotype that goes along with staying in the home.
“I used to have the same thoughts about stay-at-home moms, it’s a natural inclination to have,” she said. “But you gain such a perspective as a parent on what is best for your children and understanding the emotions that go along with that.”
Emotions are well known in DISD board meetings, which are often emotionally charged and conflict filled. She said, as a parent, she is well equipped to understand the emotions flowing through the room and know how to deal with them in a productive and efficient way.
“I think sometimes the DISD board is just not good at listening and validating those feelings,” she said. “They won’t make everyone happy. But at the end of the day, the way I look at it, if you make a decision that is in the best interests of the children and you are able to justify that decision, the public is going to feel a lot better.”
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